On Tuesday, November 1, the Rip Curl Pro Search, set “somewhere in San Francisco,” officially opens. It’s an event that has been anticipated by the local surf community for months and many of the world’s best surfers have been spotted at Ocean Beach in recent days, adjusting to the cold water and unique waves. After all the hype, it’s time for the big show. Let the surfing begin.
The contest window runs from November 1 through 12, but the competition itself will not be held every day. Each morning, contest officials will evaluate the wave and wind conditions to decide whether or not it looks good enough to compete. Surf contests typically need 3-5 days of rideable surf, and Mother Nature seems to be cooperating for the opening day, with good conditions predicted in the forecast for Tuesday.
To surfers and non-surfers alike, the contest will make for a cool spectacle. Ocean Beach has traditionally been a hidden surf scene, lurking in the shadow of one of the country’s best cities and it hasn’t hosted a professional surf contest in almost two decades. The cold water and unpredictable conditions—it can be 5 feet one day, and then 20 feet the next day—make for an interesting challenge, even for the world’s best.
Beyond the uniqueness of a San Francisco surf contest, there is potential for history to be made in the next two weeks. Kelly Slater, the world’s most famous surfer and 10-time world champion, only has to place 9th or better at Ocean Beach in order to once again be crowed champion. He has been dominant throughout competition this year, so a historic 11th world title seems like a distinct possibility.
In addition to watching Slater continue his quest for surfing dominance, another interesting element will be the paddling. Most surf contests feature jet skis that pick up the surfers and ferry them into the surf, but since Ocean Beach is a national park under the jurisdiction of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, jet skis are not permitted. Don’t be surprised if you see more paddling than you do surfing.
If you’re thinking of heading to the beach to watch the contest, here are a few tips on how to best enjoy yourself:
- First off, make sure the contest is happening on any given day here before you decide to call in sick at work to watch the waves. Organizers will make the call by 7:30 am each day.
- The primary contest location is in between Stairwells 18 and 20 on the north side of Ocean Beach, across from the Beach Chalet. There is a secondary contest location, tucked up by the Cliff House at Kelly’s Cove, if conditions look better there.
- Don’t even think about driving to the contest. There isn’t much parking at Ocean Beach in the first place and with the blocked off lots for the contest, it will be a traffic and parking nightmare. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will have a bike and skateboard valet, so consider pedaling yourself there. And of course, there’s Muni. The 5, 18, and 31 bus lines all swing pretty close to the contest site and if you don’t mind walking a bit, you can take the N-Judah.
- If you go out to watch, you might want to bring binoculars for a better view, or your telephoto lens if you’re going to take pictures, since the waves can break pretty far away from shore. And remember: it’s Ocean Beach, so bring layers. We’ve had good weather lately, but it looks like we’re heading into a cooling pattern, so prepare to bundle up.
- If you can’t make it out of work to watch in person, you can always keep the livestream open in a tab on your web browser while you’re at the office. Close Facebook and Twitter for the day, and watch http://live.ripcurl.com/ for commentary and close-ups.
- The action isn’t only during the day. There are surfer parties planned pretty much every night of the contest window. The Ocean Beach Bulletin has a pretty thorough round-up of all the places you can go out at night to run into one of the professional surfers.
- If the contest has given you the surf itch and you want to try surfing yourself, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Bay Area Surfing.